If our sense of morality comes from God, why do we find so many things in the Bible absolutely hideous and immoral?

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If our sense of morality comes from God, why do we find so many things in the Bible absolutely hideous and immoral?

Post by Admin on Tue Jan 26, 2016 2:28 am

If our sense of morality comes from God, why do we find so many things in the Bible absolutely hideous and immoral? The Bible prescribes a host of detestable “moral” guidelines. For example, if an Israelite man desires a female captive from war, he is permitted to force her to be his wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who is pledged to be married is raped but fails to cry out, she is to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who is not pledged to be married is raped and does not cry out, she must marry her attacker (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Psalm 137:9 touts the pleasure of dashing children against rocks, and full-scale genocide is prescribed throughout the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 7:1-2, 20:16). Is any of that true and, if so, why?
First of all, our sense of morality does indeed come from God; as Paul correctly pointed out, [W]hen Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them—Paul, Romans 2:14-15. It is therefore rather hypocritical for someone to judge God’s morality when they don’t believe in Him. Furthermore, our inherent morality can be effectively used as a basis for proving the existence of God. As pastor and teacher Mark Mittelberg says, “On what basis is something considered good or evil, right or wrong? . . . Atheists are hard-pressed to provide an answer for the existence of objective moral values.” Philosopher William Lane Craig explains, “Objective moral values are valid and binding independent of whether anyone believes in them or not. For example, to label the Holocaust objectively wrong is to say it was wrong even though the Nazis thought it was right. Now, if God does not exist, then moral values are not objective in that way.” Mark Mittelberg continues: “We know that murder and rape and bigotry and racism are wrong—really, objectively wrong—regardless of traditions, customs, or preferences. But where did we get this knowledge—this intrinsic sense of right and wrong? If we didn’t invent it, if it transcends the realms of culture and politics, if it’s something we can’t get away from, then what is its source? Could it be that a Moral Lawgiver actually knit those moral standards, along with the ability to understand and operate by them, into the very fabric of what it means to be human?”
That being said, let’s examine these passages one at a time:

(1) When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her—Deuteronomy 21:10-14.
Two things are largely overlooked when discussing verses concerned with the POW consequence of war in the Bible: first, in most of the cultures of the time, captured women were often raped, usually multiple times, before being killed, left behind, or enslaved; they had absolutely no rights; and second, Israelite soldiers were never permitted to rape female prisoners; any sexual contact between an Israelite soldier and a captured female could only be done within the confines of marriage. In this case, the woman is the complete beneficiary of this process. She has rights and is to be respected as a person, not as plunder—and she will go from having absolutely nothing to having a life of economic security. The soldier in question cannot have sex with her, nor can he instantly marry her. What was most built into this process was time—time for the woman to remove herself from her former way of life, and time for the man to give careful consideration to this decision. If he changed his mind, she was to be completely set free. Considering how the captives in most cultures of the time were treated, this was incredibly humane treatment.

(2) If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you—Deuteronomy 22:23-24.
It is important to keep in mind that, in ancient Israel, to be “pledged to be married” or betrothed was considered as binding as marriage; note that while this particular woman is only pledged to be married, the Bible still declares her to be “another man’s wife.” In this instance, the sex is considered to be between consenting adults; no force is mentioned and the woman didn’t resist. Therefore, in God’s eyes, the punishment fits the crime—and that punishment is identical to that mentioned in the previous verse, where the same act is performed between a man and a married (post-wedding) woman. God deemed this the deliberate sin of both parties, and therefore punishment was given to both. Now, there is actually a following verse which says the following: But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die—Deuteronomy 22:25. In this instance, the original Hebrew tells us that the rape occurring here is a forced rape, and therefore only the man is guilty.

(3) If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives—Deuteronomy 22:28-29.
If a person can get beyond the initial reaction, they will see that the rapist is hardly getting off easy or that this law is somehow brutal. The sparing of the rapist from the death penalty and, in fact, to marry the offended woman, was for the sake of the woman’s security. A woman having lost her virginity, however it happened, would have been considered undesirable for marriage. In the culture of that particular day, a woman without a father or a husband to provide for her would have been headed for a life of severe poverty, not to mention being branded a social outcast. The remedy in this particular case was that the rapist was now compelled to provide for the rape victim for the remainder of his life, thus protecting the woman of living a life where she was both destitute and unprotected. In this particular case, if in fact the man did marry the woman, there was no possibility of divorce; rather, the man was completely committed to her for the rest of his life. OK, so what about the father didn’t want to give his daughter to this particular man? There was precedent for that circumstance; back in the book of Exodus, God told the nation of Israel, If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins—God speaking, Exodus 22:16-17. The decision to force the man to marry the girl was made by the father in conjunction with the daughter. The girl is not required to marry the man; however, she still is receiving some economic security (the bride-price) as a result of this incident. Beyond this, however, is the language of the verse. While the man bears the brunt of the guilt, notice what the verse says: it doesn’t say that “he” was discovered; it says that “they” were discovered. The woman to a lesser degree shares in the moral guilt of the situation. This might be likened to the difference in our society between “forcible rape,” where the woman is attacked and raped beyond all her efforts to resist, and “statutory rape,” which specifies sex between an adult and a sexually mature minor page the age of puberty. Force or threat is usually not at issue. Nevertheless, while there was never going to be a perfectly satisfying outcome in such a situation, the woman is fact being provided a path for economic protection for the remainder of her days.

(4) O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us—he who seizes your infants and dash them against the rocks—Psalm 137:8-9.
This is a great example of people making the Bible say what they want it to say. But Psalm 137:9 means nothing without Psalm 137:8 included to provide the context; in fact, the entire psalm is rightfully needed because Psalm 137 is an “imprecatory” psalm. That means that it is a psalm that contains curses or prayers for the punishment of the psalmist’s enemies. While it is included in the Scriptures, it does not include any commentary about how God views the attitude that the psalmist displays—although we can probably guess. Historically, there are several instances where the Bible relates the fact or the perspective of infants or children being “dashed” to pieces—either on rocks or on the ground (II Kings 8:12; Isaiah 13:16; Hosea 10:14, 13:16; Nahum 3:10; Luke 19:41-44 (Jesus speaking). Certainly in ancient history, the disgusting practice of killing a conquered people’s infants and children is well attested. We have even seen this in recent times; the Nazis were notorious for the killing of children and infants in their conquests and also within the horrors of the Holocaust and the concentration and death camps. This psalm was written as a response to the Babylonian captivity following their destruction of Jerusalem and their sending so many Jews into exile. The psalmist is anticipating the day when Babylon will taste the same horrors that were inflicted on the people of Jerusalem. Essentially, this unknown psalmist will be applauding those who destroy Babylon as she destroyed Jerusalem, actually reflecting the Jewish principle of talion, the idea that punishment should match the crime. Certainly the Hebrew scriptures held to this idea; [I]f there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise—God speaking, Exodus 21:23-25. In addition to this, it must be understood that the Bible is an incredibly honest book, showing attitudes and actions with a completely uncensored eye. Included in the Bible are two basic forms of literature: descriptive and prescriptive. Descriptive is simply telling it like it is (or was) with no editorializing; “this is what happened”—period. Prescriptive is something that is written for us to live by; the Ten Commandments would be a great example of that. Included in “descriptive” literature are attitudes that are obviously originating a few feet lower than heaven. God does not condone them; He merely inspired someone to record them. Centuries later, when Paul quoted from the Old Testament (including, ironically, from Deuteronomy), he said, Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “IT IS MINE TO AVENGE; I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM; IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM SOMETHING TO DRINK. IN DOING THIS, YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good—Paul, Romans 12:17-21 (quoting Deuteronomy 32:35, Proverbs 25:21-22a). That is to be our attitude to everyone, including our enemies, today. As children of God, we are called to reflect Him, and no place is that more important than in our attitudes towards others.

(5) When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. . . . in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you—Deuteronomy 7:1-2, 20:16-17.
There is a lot of brutality recorded in the Scriptures, particularly in the Old Testament. It has led to the perception that there are “two” Gods at work in the Bible—the brutal one of the Old Testament and the gentle, loving one of the New Testament. Certainly the wars of conquest of Israel as she came into the Promised Land are some of these brutal episodes, particularly when reading God’s commands to Israel that came through Moses: When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire—Moses, Deuteronomy 7:1-5. Notice that this edict is not conquest for its own sake, but destroying a people that God sees as a threat to His relationship with His people. He warns them against intermarriage because that will turn their hearts away from Him. Notice also that He wants them to destroy all the vestiges of their false religions—their altars, their sacred relics, anything connected with those false faiths. Almost immediately after these verses, Moses communicates the following: Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him—Moses, Deuteronomy 7:9-10. The “destruction” we see commanded at this moment was actually over 400 years in the making. It goes all the way back to the first contacts God made with Abraham. As He was telling him of the special plans He had for him and his coming family, God also told him this: Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure”—Genesis 15:13-16. The “Amorites” mentioned here are the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—Moses Deuteronomy 7:1b. God had given them over 400 years to repent of their sins—reminding us of a very New Testament truth: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance—II Peter 3:9. God had loved them, showing them grace and patience like only He can. The truth about God was certainly available to them; remember that Abraham meets Melchizedek, king of Salem (right in their midst) and priest of God most High—Genesis 14:18b. The lifestyles these nations embraced at the time Israel came along were lifestyles being lived in knowing rebellion against God; therefore, His command for Israel to act as they did was His perfect judgment against a people that God in His divine, perfect knowledge knew would never turn their path to Him. They were genuinely wicked—child sacrifice and cult prostitution were two standards of their “religions.” And they were committed to the destruction of Israel (sound familiar?) and would always be that way. So when, for instance, Israel fought against the city of Jericho, and devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys—Joshua 6:21, they were obeying the explicit command of God. They were not judging, but rather they were the instrument of judgment God used in dealing with these people. It can be difficult reading sections of Scripture like Joshua 10, where you read over and over again concerning all these cities and all their people that Israel encountered that they were all “totally destroyed,” with “no survivors.” Yet that was unmistakably God’s intention and command and, therefore, when “destruction” was God’s command, anything less was disobedience. But at the same time, we also see that Israel operated under very clear and specific rules regarding warfare for cities and lands at a distance (not the immediate nations of the Promised Land); Moses laid them out: When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you—Moses, Deuteronomy 20:10-11. If, however, they showed resistance, the rules were also clear: If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby—Moses, Deuteronomy 20:12-15. But, for the nations of the Promised Land, the command was clear: However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you—Moses, Deuteronomy 20:16-17. Why? Moses tells them: Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God—Moses, Deuteronomy 20:18. But, in another Scripture that reveals God’s heart, He tells us in Ezekiel, in words that literally shout over the centuries: Do I take pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? . . . For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! . . . ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!—God speaking, Ezekiel 18:23, 32, 33:11a. This is illustrated so wonderfully in the story of Jonah, sent to preach God’s coming judgment—very well earned—on the people of Nineveh. But when they repented, judgment was put aside: On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened—Jonan 3:4-10. There is no reason to believe that this wouldn’t have also been the story with the nations of Canaan. In fact, God’s desire was not the destruction of the Canaanite people, but rather their false, abominable religion. When repentance occurred (as in Nineveh), the people were spared.

Now it seems only fair, having looked at these passages that suggest a cruel God, that we look at verses from the Old Testament (including from the book of Deuteronomy) that fill out the picture of God:

(1) God is merciful: For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath—Deuteronomy 4:31.

(2) God is loving: The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. . . . the Lord your God loves you—Deuteronomy 7:7-9, 23:5b.

(3) God is forgiving: Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”—Exodus 34:5-7a.

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